From Fela Kuti to Miriam Makeba, music has long been a medium of choice for political activists across the continent. Writing in Quartz Africa, South African journalist Lynsey Chutel takes a look at Bobi Wine’s musical advocacy, and how he fits in to a time-honoured African tradition of weaving social and political narratives into beats and melodies:
Over the catchy beats of Afropop, artists are increasingly tapping into the frustrations of young Africans. Leaders, threatened by this musical momentum, are trying to silence it.
Moving from stage to parliamentary benches, Bobi Wine’s message has remained the same, speaking out against corruption, social media taxation and the 73-year-old president’s continued grip on power.
Museveni, who has been in power for over three decades, tried to dismiss Wine as “indisciplined [SIC] grandson,” but was clearly rattled by this emerging political threat.
Often, banning a politically charged song only serves to reinforce its message. Inspired by Childish Gambino’s audacious hit This is America, Nigerian rapper Falz turned that gaze on his own country. Yet, while the American version provoked debate and cultural acclaim, Falz’s critique of Nigeria’s ills was silenced by an embarrassed state.
Music has always been a medium with which to challenge the establishment—from Miriam Makeba’s warning to the apartheid government to Fela Kuti’s rebuke of wayward postcolonial leaders. Present-day governments are using the same old tactics to silence their critics—but today, the beat moves a digital generation, sending it even further.